Demographic catastrophe looms over Italy as births hit record low and population plummets
National statistics bureau ISTAT reports that Italy’s population continues to shrink as births hit a record low in 2022, falling below 400,000. The country’s dearth of babies is considered a national emergency, with fixing the problem being a prominent policy pledge by Giorgia Meloni ahead of last year’s election. Last year, Italy recorded more deaths than births, and the resident population fell by 179,000 to 58.85 million.
According to ISTAT’s annual demographic report, a major factor in the decline of Italy’s birth rate is the reduction and aging of the female population in the 15-49 age group. The fertility rate edged down to 1.24 children per woman from 1.25 in 2021, registering a decline in central and northern regions and a marginal increase in the south. This is the 14th consecutive year of decline and the lowest number since the country’s unification in 1861.
The decline in Italy’s population and birth rate is a major concern for policymakers. While immigration has partly offset the decline, the country must find ways to encourage more births and address the aging population to ensure sustainable economic growth and social welfare.
ISTAT predicted in September that Italy could lose almost a fifth of its residents, with the population set to decline, under a baseline scenario, to 54.2 million in 2050 and 47.7 million in 2070. In its latest report, ISTAT said one in four people in Italy is above the age of 65, while the number of centenarians has tripled to 22,000 over the last 20 years.
The trend in Italy is alarming, and policymakers must address this looming demographic catastrophe. The decline in births and population could have devastating consequences for the country’s economy and social welfare.